Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry
Written by: Simon Barrett
Directed by: Adam Wingard
MPAA Rating: R for language, terror and some disturbing images
Running Time: 89
Date: 09/16/2016

Blair Witch (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Careless 'Blair'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As it grows more unreal, this second sequel to the original The Blair Witch Project (1999) becomes intensely scary, but it's fatally undone by a weak setup and irritatingly dumb, shallow characters. It has more in common with the rushed, boneheaded Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) than it does the crafty, groundbreaking original.

Blair Witch takes place many years after the original film; the missing documentarian Heather's younger brother, James (James Allen McCune), receives a clue, a video found in the woods containing her image. James's childhood friend Peter (Brandon Scott) agrees to go to the woods with him to find out more, and Peter's girlfriend Ashley (Corbin Reid) comes along. A friend, Lisa (Callie Hernandez), working on a documentary project, rigs everyone with cameras. There, they meet locals Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) and head into the woods. At first, strange happenings appear to be nothing to worry about, but before long, the terror escalates until nothing seems real anymore.

The reason for going into the woods is ridiculous (James thinks he's going to find Heather), and the friends are selfish and treat each other callously. Ideas like a flying drone camera and the two locals initially faking some scares are dropped or never explored, and seem more like desperate filler than actual content. The shaky-cam footage can get tiresome, but stark lighting, the spooky woods and the even spookier, godforsaken cabin at the climax are actually, genuinely hair-raising, relying more on goosebumps than on jump-scares. And, yes, resurrecting an old and embarrassing cliche, the African-American characters are the first to die.

It's a shame that, if director Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) had skill enough to generate chills, he also could have made a smart and emotionally engaging movie.

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